This really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who looks at this site or hell, works a full time job, but the myth of the forty hour work week has been “determined” by a recent Gallup Poll.
Of course, you should always take these sorts of things with a grain of salt, especially given the basis:
The results are based on surveys of 1,271 adults in Gallup’s 2013 and 2014 Work and Education Survey.
Not exactly a groundbreaking study in both scope and its result and so even if it’s definitely a bit of a confirmation bias or a poll result that proves what most of us here already knew or suspected. So let’s try to keep our wits about ourselves with these things and when they come out, even if they do feel good in a way to hear about because it confirms our suspicions.
The article also denotes that the people who actually qualify as full time workers (technically) are down from 50% to 43% which is another thing that isn’t very surprising. I know a lot more people who are part-time workers then people who are full-time workers. Most of my friends would usually be working a few part-time jobs then a full-time one unless they worked on something like coding or writing and were really good at it.
On the topic of coding and also related to the central topic of this post is how much they work and here’s a few reasons why:
One is something known as the “imposter syndrome.” That’s when you’re pretty sure that all the other coders you work with are smarter, more talented and more skilled than you are. You live in fear that people will discover that you are really faking your smarts or skills or accomplishments.
That feeling is called the “Real Programmer” syndrome as named by a post that went crazy on Reddit last week. The Real Programmer lives only to code. Redditor big_al11 explains:
A Real Programmer is someone who loves programming! They love it so much that it’s what they spend all their time doing. …
the Real Programmer doesn’t really consider it “work”. …
a programmer isn’t a Real Programmer when they don’t volunteer to work 60 to 80 hour weeks (for no extra monetary compensation, remember) because it’s “fun”. …
It permeates the industry’s culture.
… If you want to succeed as a programmer you have to at least look like a Real Programmer …. So you get people working evenings and weekends just for appearances and they start to burnout.
This sort of psychological and cultural behaviors aren’t always reliant on the threat of losing their job or on some sort of threat of violence but rather a larger cultural fascination we have (and the tech industry seems to especially love in certain corners) with overworking ourselves just because we love it.
Look, I love plenty of things and I know it can be awesome to work at them a bunch from time to time. But moderation is key or else you might just get too much of a good thing. In other words these people who are trying to be “real” are sacrificing whatever external “real-ness” they could have for their “real-ness” when it comes to their job. And again I’m left wondering how much of a reality that is when it’s so one-sided and based in a world where you have a lot less control over yourself then you may ideally want.
I’m not accusing any of these workers of “false consciousness” or anything like that. I’m sure that they genuinely are happy with both the work they are doing and the amount of time they put into it. But that doesn’t mean the reasoning for their happiness or the ways they are going about getting this happiness are actually healthy. Especially since this seems to be more normalized than just some fringe thing that is going on.
I’d feel better about this sort of attitude towards work if it wasn’t based on this really harmful notion of work that people should aspire to. Look how much it can potentially harm people:
For instance, about a year ago, corporate programmer Kenneth Parker wrote a post on his Ken’s Programming blog called “I Knew a Programmer that Went Completely Insane.”
It discussed his co-worker who worked so hard, he had “a complete mental breakdown.”
He was one of the hardest workers I had seen in the industry. He would frequently stay after hours to work on projects; He was always available when management needed someone to rush a job out over the weekend…. His willingness to push himself to get a job done is what they liked about him. However, his productivity was not so great when he landed in a mental institution.
I don’t think everyone who works this hard is going to end up like this guy did but I do think this sort of outcome points to larger problems with the way we think about and handle work. Even if what people are doing (and over-doing) makes them happy and makes them feel good about themselves it can still be damaging to themselves or to the people they care about. They can neglect or even totally abandon their family and friends and start losing passion for anything outside of their job.
And hey, maybe that could work on a really small scale level or could work for people who simply don’t care about anything except their jobs, I won’t deny that. But especially as something as large as a general social expectation either in certain industries or worse, in society itself, it seems like it could only prove widespread harm to people’s social life.
So thanks Gallup poll for pointing out that people are overworked and that businesses aren’t listening to their “mandated” amount of hours they are supposed to give. Even if they were listening to the government and weren’t imposing the overtime it’s clear that as long as the work ethic stays a broader cultural norm then the workers will merely do it themselves.
As Voltaire said, “If hard work did not exist under capitalism, it would be necessary for the workers to invent it.”
…Or something like that.
I’m too lazy to look up the real thing.